Television dramas about rich people and their wealthy lifestyles tend to follow a formulaic method. The characters are depicted as superficial, the storylines are usually generic and the drama is exaggerated to an excessive degree. Frequently, these white-collar shows portray the upper class as devious, corrupt or greedy, their success only making them more obsessed with power and money. Though some of these shows have proven to be successful (CW’s “Gossip Girl” and ABC’s “Revenge”), they don’t always offer engrossing material or delve into thought-provoking themes. Such is the case with Crackle’s new original series “The Art of More.”
While a decent attempt at being a suspenseful crime thriller, “The Art of More” is mediocre and somewhat perplexing, focusing more on glamour than on content and coherence. Set in the seedy underbelly of New York auction houses, the show centers around successful, debonair art executive Graham Connor (Christian Cooke, “Witches of East End”). Connor works at the upscale Parke-Mason auction house, where he encounters rivals, affluent clients and a black-market side business. Based on the premise alone, “The Art of More” seems like it could be an appealing exploration into the lives of American socialites through their ventures in crime and debauchery. But alas, it only builds on bland clichés. The only exception is that these socialites bid for fancy cars and famous paintings, which is about as unexciting as it sounds.
The pilot episode, “Heavy Lies the Head,” doesn’t do “The Art of More” any storytelling justice, with a convoluted plot that’s very easy to get lost in. Several flashbacks are used to convey Graham’s backstory, but the organization of the episode sets a confusing tone for the show. In the opening scene, there is a flashback to an Iraqi museum in 2009, where Graham is an American soldier who becomes engaged in a physical struggle with art robbers attempting to steal a prized crown. Then, the scene shifts to present day, where Parke-Mason is selling that same crown for a large sum of money. Though the first scene is referenced later and gives more details about Graham’s past, “The Art of More” struggles to achieve any fluid connection between these flashbacks and Graham’s character.
While the cast of “The Art of More” is attractive and fit for their roles, the acting could use a great deal of work. Graham’s charismatic suaveness with potential clients helps his business at Parke-Mason, but Cooke’s stilted, robotic delivery as Graham makes him sound unconvincing. Dennis Quaid (“Vantage Point”) plays Sam Brukner, an obnoxious, Donald Trump-type billionaire and client of Parke-Mason, whose prominent drunkenness and flirtation with young women is grossly overused. Perhaps Brukner is supposed to be an unlikable character, but “The Art of More” could make his role more three-dimensional if it reduced his erratic behavior. Graham’s boss Arthur Davenport (Cary Elwes, “Saw”) acts like a typical slimy villain, with no distinctive features other than his blue suits and British accent. However, one bright spot in the mostly dull cast is actress Kate Bosworth (“Still Alice”) as the alluring, elusive Roxanna Whitman, one of Graham’s adversaries. Though she is on screen briefly in the pilot, Bosworth breathes life into Whitman, making her the show’s most intriguing and mysterious character.
Unfortunately, Bosworth’s presence and the show’s stylish aesthetics seem to be “The Art of More” ’s only redeeming qualities. There aren’t any compelling twists, thrilling action sequences or exciting plot developments. Instead, “The Art of More” moves at a plodding pace and offers ambiguous clues about Graham’s mysterious past and ulterior motives. Considering “The Art of More” is featured on the streaming service Crackle, a poor man’s Netflix, it hasn’t reached the inventive heights of other online original series, especially since it shares the same platform as a raunchy animated series (“SuperMansion”) and a direct-to-video sequel of a David Spade movie (“Joe Dirt 2: Awesome Loser”). Even though it has some potential to break creative barriers for crime dramas, “The Art of More” needs more suspense, more character development and a more gripping plot in order to do so.